NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Giants are allowing Victor Cruz to enter restricted free agency, placing a first-round tender on the wide receiver.
Team owner John Mara said Monday the Giants will risk having Cruz agree to a contract with another club. New York has the right to match any offer. If the Giants allow him to leave, they will get a first-round draft choice as compensation.
The tender is worth $2.879 million for 2012 for Cruz, who has not made half of that in his three pro seasons. But Cruz believes he can earn more on the open market.
Cruz has reportedly changed agents, going with Tom Condon of CAA. Condon also represents Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
“We hope that at some point we’ll be able to reach a long-term agreement with him, but we’re just not there right now,” Mara said. “Certainly we’re taking a risk, but we would still have the right to match, No. 1. And if we decided not to do that, we’re getting a first-round draft pick out of it. So, yeah, it is a risk for us and he is an exciting, dynamic player and it’s not going to shock me if he gets an offer.”
Cruz was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and has become one of the most popular athletes in the New York area with his salsa dances after touchdowns. He has 168 receptions for 2,628 yards and 19 touchdowns. He made the 2012 Pro Bowl and is considered one of the league’s best slot receivers.
The going rate for top wide receivers in unrestricted free agency could reach $10 million a year.
“Cruz and his old agents wanted him to be paid like a No. 1 NFL receiver,” the New York Daily News reported, citing sources.
Mara didn’t want to “get into dollars” or characterize the money gap, though he acknowledged the Giants made “a very substantial offer.”
“Let’s just say if he took our offer he’d be a very wealthy young man,” Mara said.
No restricted free agent has gotten an offer sheet in three years — and first-round RFAs have gone without one since 2003, according to the Daily News.
“He’s been a great player for us,” Mara said. “Like we do with all of our players, there’s a limit as to how far we’re going to go on a contract because you’ve got to pay 53. If the money goes over that limit, then we have to make a decision.
“If someone wants to make him an offer, we’ll evaluate whether it makes sense for us or not. My hope is that he’s a Giant for many years.”
The Giants on Monday confirmed the signing of defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who agreed to a three-year, $8 million deal after being cut by the Eagles.
Jenkins said he talked to five teams after being released.
“It’s been a tough two weeks, going through so many different things mentally, with my family and traveling so much – trying to figure out which was the best scenario,” he said. “I’m glad that it’s over and especially with the Giants. This was my first visit and I had a good feeling here, especially talking with the coaches. Everybody was straight up, straightforward with me. I had a good gut feeling about New York.”
The Giants finished 31st in the league on defense and needed help on the interior after releasing Chris Canty.
“He has earned the respect of our players, having played against us when he was in Green Bay and against us when he was in Philadelphia,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s a very versatile performer. He can play inside and outside. The challenge first and foremost is to stop the run and he’s well aware of that; I’ve spoken to him about it. He also demonstrated outstanding pass rush ability, whether you play him inside or outside. He’s a very versatile player that can play in all circumstances and situations.
Defensive captain Justin Tuck tweeted that the Giants will be able to give opponents more looks with Jenkins.
“He’s a big, strong, athletic guy who knows the ropes and knows what it takes to be successful in this league,” Tuck tweeted.
Will Cruz still be with the Giants once this all shakes out? Sound off in the comments!
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